Bazooka

Bazooka

Overview
Bazooka is the common name for a man-portable recoilless rocket antitank weapon, widely fielded by the U.S. Army. Also referred to as the "Stovepipe", the innovative bazooka was amongst the first-generation of rocket propelled
Rocket propelled grenade
A rocket-propelled grenade is a shoulder-fired, anti-tank weapon system which fires rockets equipped with an explosive warhead. These warheads are affixed to a rocket motor and stabilized in flight with fins. Some types of RPG are reloadable while others are single-use. RPGs, with the exception of...

 anti-tank weapons used in infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

 combat. Featuring a solid rocket motor for propulsion, it allowed for high-explosive anti-tank
Heat
In physics and thermodynamics, heat is energy transferred from one body, region, or thermodynamic system to another due to thermal contact or thermal radiation when the systems are at different temperatures. It is often described as one of the fundamental processes of energy transfer between...

 (HEAT) warheads to be delivered against armored vehicles, machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

 nests, and fortified bunker
Bunker
A military bunker is a hardened shelter, often buried partly or fully underground, designed to protect the inhabitants from falling bombs or other attacks...

s at ranges beyond that of a standard thrown grenade
Grenade
A grenade is a small explosive device that is projected a safe distance away by its user. Soldiers called grenadiers specialize in the use of grenades. The term hand grenade refers any grenade designed to be hand thrown. Grenade Launchers are firearms designed to fire explosive projectile grenades...

 or mine
Land mine
A land mine is usually a weight-triggered explosive device which is intended to damage a target—either human or inanimate—by means of a blast and/or fragment impact....

.
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Encyclopedia
Bazooka is the common name for a man-portable recoilless rocket antitank weapon, widely fielded by the U.S. Army. Also referred to as the "Stovepipe", the innovative bazooka was amongst the first-generation of rocket propelled
Rocket propelled grenade
A rocket-propelled grenade is a shoulder-fired, anti-tank weapon system which fires rockets equipped with an explosive warhead. These warheads are affixed to a rocket motor and stabilized in flight with fins. Some types of RPG are reloadable while others are single-use. RPGs, with the exception of...

 anti-tank weapons used in infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

 combat. Featuring a solid rocket motor for propulsion, it allowed for high-explosive anti-tank
Heat
In physics and thermodynamics, heat is energy transferred from one body, region, or thermodynamic system to another due to thermal contact or thermal radiation when the systems are at different temperatures. It is often described as one of the fundamental processes of energy transfer between...

 (HEAT) warheads to be delivered against armored vehicles, machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

 nests, and fortified bunker
Bunker
A military bunker is a hardened shelter, often buried partly or fully underground, designed to protect the inhabitants from falling bombs or other attacks...

s at ranges beyond that of a standard thrown grenade
Grenade
A grenade is a small explosive device that is projected a safe distance away by its user. Soldiers called grenadiers specialize in the use of grenades. The term hand grenade refers any grenade designed to be hand thrown. Grenade Launchers are firearms designed to fire explosive projectile grenades...

 or mine
Land mine
A land mine is usually a weight-triggered explosive device which is intended to damage a target—either human or inanimate—by means of a blast and/or fragment impact....

. The universally-applied nickname arose from the M1 variant's vague resemblance to the tubular musical instrument of the same name
Bazooka (instrument)
The bazooka is a brasswind musical instrument several feet in length and incorporates telescopic tubing like the trombone. Often, people construct very simple bazookas with scavenged materials like pipes and funnels...

 invented and popularized in the 1930s by U.S. comedian Bob Burns.
During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 armed forces captured several bazookas in early North African encounters and soon reverse engineered
Reverse engineering
Reverse engineering is the process of discovering the technological principles of a device, object, or system through analysis of its structure, function, and operation...

 their own version, increasing the warhead diameter to 8.8 cm (amongst other minor changes) and widely issuing it as the Raketenpanzerbüchse "Panzerschreck"
Panzerschreck
Panzerschreck was the popular name for the Raketenpanzerbüchse , an 88 mm calibre reusable anti-tank rocket launcher developed by Nazi Germany in World War II. Another popular nickname was Ofenrohr ....

 ("Tank terror").

Due to the novelty and easy recognition of the name, the term "bazooka" continues to be used informally as a genericized term to refer to any shoulder-fired missile weapon.

Design and development


The development of the bazooka involved the development of two specific lines of technology: the rocket-powered (recoilless) weapon, and the shaped-charge warhead.
It was also designed for easy maneuverability and access.

World War I


The Rocket-Powered Recoilless Weapon was the brainchild of Dr. Robert H. Goddard
Robert H. Goddard
Robert Hutchings Goddard was an American professor, physicist and inventor who is credited with creating and building the world's first liquid-fueled rocket, which he successfully launched on March 16, 1926...

 as a side project (under Army contract) of his work on rocket propulsion. Goddard, during his tenure
Tenure
Tenure commonly refers to life tenure in a job and specifically to a senior academic's contractual right not to have his or her position terminated without just cause.-19th century:...

 at Clark University
Clark University
Clark University is a private research university and liberal arts college in Worcester, Massachusetts.Founded in 1887, it is the oldest educational institution founded as an all-graduate university. Clark now also educates undergraduates...

, and while working at Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Worcester Polytechnic Institute is a private university located in Worcester, Massachusetts, in the United States.Founded in 1865 in Worcester, WPI was one of the United States' first engineering and technology universities...

's magnetics lab and Mount Wilson Observatory
Mount Wilson Observatory
The Mount Wilson Observatory is an astronomical observatory in Los Angeles County, California, United States. The MWO is located on Mount Wilson, a 5,715 foot peak in the San Gabriel Mountains near Pasadena, northeast of Los Angeles...

 (for security reasons), designed a tube-fired rocket for military use during World War I. He and his co-worker, Dr. Clarence Hickman, successfully demonstrated his rocket to the U.S. Army Signal Corps at Aberdeen Proving Ground
Aberdeen Proving Ground
Aberdeen Proving Ground is a United States Army facility located near Aberdeen, Maryland, . Part of the facility is a census-designated place , which had a population of 3,116 at the 2000 census.- History :...

, Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

, on November 6, 1918, but as the Compiègne Armistice
Armistice with Germany (Compiègne)
The armistice between the Allies and Germany was an agreement that ended the fighting in the First World War. It was signed in a railway carriage in Compiègne Forest on 11 November 1918 and marked a victory for the Allies and a complete defeat for Germany, although not technically a surrender...

 was signed only five days later, further development was discontinued. The delay in the development of the bazooka was as a result of Goddard's serious bout with tuberculosis. Goddard continued to be a part-time consultant to the U.S. Government at Indian Head, Maryland
Indian Head, Maryland
Indian Head is a town in Charles County, Maryland, United States. The population was 3,422 at the 2000 census. It has been the site of a naval base specializing in gun and rocket propellants since 1890. Production of nitrocellulose and smokeless powder began at the Indian Head Powder Factory in 1900...

, until 1923, but soon turned his focus to other projects involving rocket propulsion.

The shaped charge


Development of the explosive shaped charge
Shaped charge
A shaped charge is an explosive charge shaped to focus the effect of the explosive's energy. Various types are used to cut and form metal, to initiate nuclear weapons, to penetrate armor, and in the oil and gas industry...

 dates back to the work of American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

 Charles Edward Munroe
Charles Edward Munroe
Charles Edward Munroe was a U.S. chemist, and discoverer of the Munroe effect.He was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts and studied at the Lawrence scientific school of Harvard, graduating in 1871...

, who carried out explosive shock focusing experiments in 1880. For over 50 years the phenomenon remained a curiosity. Around or during 1937 however, two apparently (but potentially not) independent groups of German and Swiss inventors began promoting shaped-charge devices for application as anti-armor weapons. The picture is clouded by secrecy in the buildup to World War II; the German group of Cranz, Schardin, and Thomanek went on to develop weapons for the German war effort, while the group led by the Swiss inventor Henry Mohaupt licensed their designs internationally.

Mohaupt's technology was developed in the US into a shaped charge hand grenade
Hand grenade
A hand grenade is any small bomb that can be thrown by hand. Hand grenades are classified into three categories, explosive grenades, chemical and gas grenades. Explosive grenades are the most commonly used in modern warfare, and are designed to detonate after impact or after a set amount of time...

 for use in highly fluid situations, effective at defeating up to 60 mm (2.4 in) of vehicle armor. The grenade was standardized as the M10. However, the M10 grenade weighed 3.5 lb (1.6 kg), was difficult to throw by hand, and too heavy to be launched as a rifle grenade
Rifle grenade
A rifle grenade is a grenade that uses a rifle-based launcher to permit a longer effective range than would be possible if the grenade was thrown by hand...

. The only practical way to use the weapon was for an infantryman to place it directly on the tank, an unlikely means of delivery in most combat situations. A smaller, less powerful version of the M10, the M9, was then developed, which could be fired from a rifle. This resulted in the creation of a series of rifle grenade launchers, the M1 (Springfield M1903), M2 (Enfield M1917), and the M7 (M1 Garand
M1 Garand
The M1 Garand , was the first semi-automatic rifle to be generally issued to the infantry of any nation. Called "the greatest battle implement ever devised" by General George S...

) and M8 (M1 Carbine
M1 Carbine
The M1 carbine is a lightweight, easy to use semi-automatic carbine that became a standard firearm for the U.S. military during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and was produced in several variants. It was widely used by U.S...

) . However, a truly capable anti-tank weapon had yet to be found, and following the lead of other countries at the time, the U.S. Army prepared to evaluate competing designs for a large and powerful anti-tank rifle.

The combination of rocket motor and shaped charge warhead would put paid to Army development of light antitank guns.

Rocket-borne shaped charge weapons development


In 1942, U.S. Army Colonel Leslie Skinner received the M10 shaped-charge grenade which was capable of stopping German tanks. He tasked Lieutenant Edward Uhl
Edward Uhl
Edward Uhl was a United States Army Ordnance Officer who helped to develop the M1 portable rocket launcher, known as the bazooka....

 with creating a delivery system for the grenade. Uhl created a small rocket, but needed to protect the firer from the rocket exhaust and aim the weapon. According to Uhl,

"I was walking by this scrap pile, and there was a tube that ... happened to be the same size as the grenade that we were turning into a rocket. I said, That's the answer! Put the tube on a soldier's shoulder with the rocket inside, and away it goes."

Uhl developed the rocket launcher
Shoulder-launched missile weapon
A shoulder-fired missile, shoulder-launched missile or man-portable missile is a projectile fired at a target, small enough to be carried by a single person, and fired while held on one's shoulder...

 and is known as father of the Bazooka.
Development of the M1 prototype took place in Corcoran Hall at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 with the help of Clarence Hickman who had worked for Goddard. The M1 consisted of a sheet metal tube with a simple wooden stock, hand grips, and sights (replaced by metal in production models), into which the 60.07 mm-diameter (officially designated "M6, 2.36-inch" to avoid confusion with rounds for the 60 mm mortar) rocket grenades were inserted at the rear with trailing electrical leads. The cast steel warhead contained 1.6 lb of Pentolite
Pentolite
Pentolite is a high explosive used for military and civilian purposes e.g. warheads and booster charges.Military pentolite comprises a mixture of 50% PETN and 50% TNT. A 50:50 mixture has a density of 1.65 g/cm3 and a detonation velocity of 7400 m/s. Civilian pentolite sometimes contains a lower...

 high explosive. A two-cell dry battery
Dry Cell
-Dry Cell's formation:Part of the band formed in 1998 when guitarist Danny Hartwell and drummer Brandon Brown met at the Ratt Show on the Sunset Strip. They later met up with then-vocalist Judd Gruenbaum. The original name of the band was "Beyond Control"....

 in the wood shoulder rest provided a charge to ignite the rocket when the trigger was pulled; the wires sticking out the back of the round having been connected to two contacts by the assisting loader.

Although the weapon had some reliability and accuracy problems, Ordnance officials were greatly pleased with the penetrative effect of the new M1, which blew the turret off a tank during field trials. The weapon's M6 rocket warhead was capable of penetrating roughly 4 inches (100 mm) of armor plate. As a result, the War Department cancelled all plans for anti-tank rifles and in 1942 adopted the M1 rocket launcher and its M6 rocket as standard. The M1 rocket launcher was the first type to see combat use.

By late 1942, the improved Rocket Launcher, M1A1 was introduced. The forward hand grip was deleted, and the design simplified. The production M1A1 was 54 inches (1.37 m) long and weighed only 12.75 pounds (5.8 kg).

The ammunition for the original M1 launcher was the M6, which was notoriously unreliable. The M6 was improved and designated M6A1, and the new ammunition was issued with the improved M1A1 launcher. After the M6, several alternative warheads were introduced. The 2.36-Inch Smoke Rocket M10 and its improved subvariants (M10A1, M10A2, M10A4) used the rocket motor and fin assembly of the M6A1, but replaced the anti-tank warhead with a white phosphorus (WP) smoke head. WP smoke not only acts as a visible screen, but its burning particles can cause burns on human skin. The M10 was therefore used to mark targets, to blind enemy gunners or vehicle drivers, or to drive troops out of bunkers and dugouts. The 2.36-Inch Incendiary Rocket T31 was an M10 variant with an incendiary warhead designed to ignite fires in enemy-held structures and unarmored vehicles, or to destroy combustible supplies, ammunition, and materiel
Materiel
Materiel is a term used in English to refer to the equipment and supplies in military and commercial supply chain management....

, it was not often utilized.

The original M1 and M1A1 rocket launchers were equipped with a simple rear sight and fixed front sight, and used a launch tube without reinforcements. During the war, the M1A1 received a number of running modifications. The battery specification was changed to a larger, standard battery cell size, resulting in complaints of batteries getting stuck in the wood shoulder rest (the compartment was later reamed out to accommodate the larger cells). This was followed by a new aperture rear sight and a front rectangular "frame" sight positioned at the muzzle. The vertical sides of the frame sight were inscribed with graduations of 100, 200, and 300 yards. On the M9, the iron sights were at first replaced by a plastic optical ring sight, which proved unsatisfactory in service, frequently turning opaque after a few days' exposure to sunlight. Later iron sights were hinged to fold against the tube when not in use, and were protected by a cover. The launcher also had an adjustable range scale that provided graduations from 50 to 700 yards (46 to 640 meters) in 50-yard (46 m) increments. An additional strap iron shoulder brace was fitted to the launcher, along with various types of blast deflectors.

The bazooka required special care when used in tropical or arctic climates or in severe dust or sand conditions. Rockets were not to be fired at temperatures below zero F or above 120 F (-18°C to +49°C).

Field experience induced changes


In 1943, field reports of rockets sticking and prematurely detonating in M1A1 launch tubes were received by Army Ordnance at Ogden Arsenal and other production facilities. At the U.S. Army's Aberdeen Testing Grounds, various metal collars and wire wrapping were used on the sheet metal launch tube in an effort to reinforce it. However, reports of premature detonation continued until the development of bore slug test gauges to ensure that the rocket did not catch inside the launch tube.

The original M6 and M6A1 rockets used in the M1 and M1A1 launchers had a pointed nose, which was found to cause deflection from the target at low impact angles. In late 1943, another 2.36-in rocket type was adopted, the M6A3, for use with the newly standardized M9 rocket launcher. The M6A3 was 19.4 inches (493 mm) long, and weighed 3.38 lb (1.53 kg). It had a blunted, more round nose to improve target effect at low angles, and a new circular fin assembly to improve flight stability. The M6A3 was capable of penetrating 3.5 to 4 inches (89 to 102mm) of armor plate.

Battery problems in the early bazookas eventually resulted in replacement of the battery-powered ignition system with a magneto sparker system
Magneto (electrical)
A magneto is an electrical generator that uses permanent magnets to produce alternating current.Magnetos adapted to produce pulses of high voltage are used in the ignition systems of some gasoline-powered internal combustion engines to provide power to the spark plugs...

 operated through the trigger. A trigger safety was incorporated into the design that isolated the magneto, preventing misfires that could occur when the trigger was released and the stored charge prematurely fired the rocket. The final major change was the division of the launch tube into two discrete sections, with bayonet-joint attachments. This was done to make the weapon more convenient to carry, particularly for use by airborne forces. The final two-piece launcher was standardized as the M9A1. However, the long list of incorporated modifications increased the launcher's tube length to 61 inches (1.55 m), with an overall empty weight of 14.3 lb (6.5 kg). From its original conception as a relatively light, handy, and disposable weapon, the final M9A1 launcher had become a heavy, clumsy, and relatively complex piece of equipment.

In October 1944, after receiving reports of inadequate combat effect of the M1A1 and M9 launchers and their M6A1 rockets, and after examining captured examples of the German 8.8 cm RPzB 43 and RPzB 54 Panzerschreck
Panzerschreck
Panzerschreck was the popular name for the Raketenpanzerbüchse , an 88 mm calibre reusable anti-tank rocket launcher developed by Nazi Germany in World War II. Another popular nickname was Ofenrohr ....

, the U.S. Ordnance Corps began development on a new, more powerful anti-tank rocket launcher, the 3.5-inch M20. However, the weapon's design was not completed until after the war and saw no action against an enemy until Korea.

In 1945, the U.S. Army's Chemical Warfare Service
Chemical Corps (United States Army)
The Chemical Corps is the branch of the United States Army tasked with defending against Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear weapons...

 standardized improved chemical warfare rockets intended for the new M9 and M9A1 launchers, adopting the M26 Gas Rocket, a cyanogen chloride
Cyanogen chloride
Cyanogen chloride is an inorganic compound with the formula NCCl. This linear, triatomic pseudohalogen is an easily condensed colorless gas. More commonly encountered in the laboratory is the related compound cyanogen bromide, a room-temperature solid that is widely used in biochemical analysis and...

 (CK)-filled warhead for the 2.36-in rocket launcher. CK, a deadly blood agent, was capable of breaking down the protective chemical barriers in some gas masks, and was seen as an effective agent against Japanese forces (particularly those hiding in caves or bunkers), whose gas masks lacked the impregnants that would provide protection against the chemical reaction of CK. While stockpiled in U.S. inventory, the CK rocket was never deployed or issued to combat personnel.

Even though in late 1942 the general American public became aware of the bazooka in small articles in the monthly magazines Popular Mechanics and Popular Science it was not until early 1945 that they learned in a very large and detailed article in Popular Science the true secret of the bazooka's warhead. The US War Department had decided that it was only a matter of time before both Germany and Japan were defeated and the secrets of shape charges were already well known by its enemies.

World War II


Secretly introduced via the Russian front and in November 1942 during Operation Torch
Operation Torch
Operation Torch was the British-American invasion of French North Africa in World War II during the North African Campaign, started on 8 November 1942....

, early production versions of the M1 launcher and M6 rocket were hastily supplied to some of the U.S. invasion forces during the landings in North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

. On the night before the landings, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

 was shocked to discover from a subordinate that none of his troops had received any instruction in the use of the bazooka.

Initially supplied with the highly unreliable M6 rocket and without training, the M1 did not play a significant armed role in combat in the North African fighting, but did provide a German intelligence coup when some were captured by the Germans in early encounters with inexperienced U.S. troops. A U.S. general visiting the Tunis
Tunis
Tunis is the capital of both the Tunisian Republic and the Tunis Governorate. It is Tunisia's largest city, with a population of 728,453 as of 2004; the greater metropolitan area holds some 2,412,500 inhabitants....

ian front in 1943 after the close of combat operations could not find any soldiers who could report that the weapon had actually stopped an enemy tank. Further issue of the bazooka was suspended in May 1943.

During the Allied invasion of Sicily, small numbers of the M1A1 bazooka (using an improved rocket, the M6A1) were used in combat by U.S. forces. The M1A1 accounted for four medium German tanks and a heavy Tiger I
Tiger I
Tiger I is the common name of a German heavy tank developed in 1942 and used in World War II. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E, often shortened to Tiger. It was an answer to the unexpectedly formidable Soviet armour encountered in the initial months of...

, with the latter being knocked out by a lucky hit through the driver's vision slot. A major disadvantage to the bazooka was the large backblast and smoke trail (in colder weather), which gave away the position of the shooter, mandating quick relocation
Shoot-and-scoot
The term shoot and scoot refers to an artillery tactic of firing at a target and then immediately moving away from the location where the shots were fired. The reason for this is to avoid counter-battery fire - fired by enemy artillery or delivered by attack aircraft and helicopters, in order to...

 of the squad. Moreover, the bazooka fire team often had to expose their bodies in order to obtain a clear field of fire against an armored target. Casualties among bazooka team members were extremely high during the war, and assignment to such duty, widely known as Medal of Honor work in the face of German counterfire was typically regarded by other platoon members as not only highly dangerous, but nearly suicidal.

When the existence of the bazooka was revealed to the American public official press releases for the first two years stated that it "packed the wallop of a 155mm cannon"—a great exaggeration, but widely accepted by the American public at the time.

In late 1942, numbers of early-production American M1 bazookas were captured by German troops from Russian forces who had been given quantities of the bazooka under Lend-Lease
Lend-Lease
Lend-Lease was the program under which the United States of America supplied the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, China, Free France, and other Allied nations with materiel between 1941 and 1945. It was signed into law on March 11, 1941, a year and a half after the outbreak of war in Europe in...

 as well as during the Operation Torch invasions in the North African Campaign. The Germans promptly developed their own version of the weapon, increasing the diameter of the warhead from 60 mm to 88 mm (2.4 to 3.5 in). In German service, the bazooka was popularly known as the Panzerschreck. The German weapon, with its larger, more powerful warhead, had significantly greater armor penetration; ironically, calls for a larger-diameter warhead had also been raised by some ordnance officers during U.S. trials of the M1, but were rejected. After participating in an armor penetration test involving a German Panther tank using both the RPzB 54 Panzerschreck and the U.S. M9 bazooka, Corporal Donald E. Lewis of the U.S. Army informed his superiors that the Panzerschreck was "far superior to the American bazooka" ...

The M1 bazooka fared much better on the rare occasions when it could be used against the much thinner armor typically fitted to the lower sides, underside, and top of enemy tanks. To hit the bottom panel of an enemy tank, the bazooka operator had to wait until the tank was surmounting a steep hill or other obstruction, while hitting the top armor usually necessitated firing the rocket from the upper story of a building or similar elevated position. During the 1944 Allied offensive in France, Major Charles "Bazooka Charlie" Carpenter
Charles Carpenter (Lt. Col.)
Lt. Col. Charles Carpenter, aka Bazooka Charlie, aka The Mad Major was a U.S. Army officer and army observation pilot who served in World War II...

 mounted a battery of three M9 bazookas on the wing-to-fuselage struts on each side of his L-4 Grasshopper aircraft in order to attack enemy armor, and was credited with destroying six enemy tanks, including two Tiger I heavy tanks.

Despite the introduction of the M9 bazooka with its more powerful rocket—the M6A3—in late 1943, reports of the weapon's effectiveness against enemy armor decreased alarmingly in the latter stages of World War II, as new German tanks with thicker and better-designed cast armor plate and armor skirts/spaced armor were introduced. This development forced bazooka operators to target less well-protected areas of the vehicle, such as the tracks, drive sprockets, bogey wheels, or rear engine compartment. In a letter dated May 20, 1944, Gen. George S. Patton
George S. Patton
George Smith Patton, Jr. was a United States Army officer best known for his leadership while commanding corps and armies as a general during World War II. He was also well known for his eccentricity and controversial outspokenness.Patton was commissioned in the U.S. Army after his graduation from...

 stated to a colleague that "the purpose of the bazooka is not to hunt tanks offensively, but to be used as a last resort in keeping tanks from overrunning infantry. To insure this, the range should be held to around 30 yards."

In the Pacific campaign, as in North Africa, the original bazookas sent to combat often had reliability issues. The battery-operated firing circuit was easily damaged during rough handling, and the rocket motors often failed because of high temperatures and exposure to moisture, salt air, or humidity. With the introduction of the M1A1 and its more reliable rocket ammunition, the bazooka was effective against some fixed Japanese infantry emplacements such as small concrete bunkers and pill boxes. Against coconut and sand emplacements, the weapon was not always effective, as these softer structures often reduced the force of the warhead's impact enough to prevent detonation of the explosive charge. Later in the Pacific war, most infantry and marine units often used the M2 flamethrower
M2 flamethrower
The M2 flamethrower was an American man-portable backpack flamethrower that was used in World War II. It was the successor to the M1 and M1A1 flamethrowers. Although its actual "burn time" was around 47 seconds and the flame was only effective out to around 20 metres , it was still a functional...

 to attack such emplacements. In the few instances in the Pacific where the bazooka was used against tanks and armored vehicles, the rocket's warhead easily penetrated the thin armor plate used by the Japanese and destroyed the vehicle. Overall, the M1A1, M9, and M9A1 rocket launchers were viewed as useful and effective weapons during World War II, though they had been primarily employed against enemy emplacements and fixed fortifications, not as anti-tank weapons. General Dwight Eisenhower later described it as one of the four "Tools of Victory" which won World War II for the Allies (together with the atom bomb, Jeep
Willys MB
The Willys MB US Army Jeep and the Ford GPW, were manufactured from 1941 to 1945. These small four-wheel drive utility vehicles are considered the iconic World War II Jeep, and inspired many similar light utility vehicles. Over the years, the World War II Jeep later evolved into the "CJ" civilian...

 and the C-47 Skytrain
C-47 Skytrain
The Douglas C-47 Skytrain or Dakota is a military transport aircraft that was developed from the Douglas DC-3 airliner. It was used extensively by the Allies during World War II and remained in front line operations through the 1950s with a few remaining in operation to this day.-Design and...

 transport aircraft).

Korean War


The success of the more powerful German Panzerschreck caused the bazooka to be completely redesigned at the close of World War II. A larger, 3.5 in (90 mm) model was adopted, the M20 "Super Bazooka". Though bearing a superficial resemblance to the Panzerschreck, the M20
had greater effective range, penetrating capability and was nearly 20% lighter than its German counterpart. The M20 weighed 14.3 pounds (6.5 kg) and fired a hollow shaped-charge 9 lb (4 kg) M28A2 HEAT rocket when used in an anti-tank role. It was also operated by a two-man team and had a claimed rate of fire of six shots per minute. As with its predecessor, the M20 could also fire rockets with either practice (M29A2) or WP smoke (T127E3/M30) warheads. Having learned from experience of the sensitivity of the bazooka and its ammunition to moisture and harsh environments, the ammunition for the new weapon was packaged in moisture-resistant packaging, and the M20's field manual contained extensive instructions on launcher lubrication and maintenance, as well as storage of rocket ammunition. When prepared for shipment from the arsenal, the weapon was protected by antifungal coatings over all electrical contacts, in addition to a cosmoline
Cosmoline
Cosmoline is the genericized trademark for a generic class of rust preventatives, typically conforming to MIL-C-11796C Class 3, that are a brown colored wax-like mass; have a slight fluorescence; and have a petroleum-like odor and taste .Chemically, cosmoline is a homogeneous mixture of oily and...

 coating in the hand-operated magneto that ignited the rocket. Upon issue, these coatings were removed with solvent to ready the M20 for actual firing.

Budget cutbacks initiated by Secretary of Defense Louis A. Johnson
Louis A. Johnson
Louis Arthur Johnson was the second United States Secretary of Defense, serving in the cabinet of President Harry S. Truman from March 28, 1949 to September 19, 1950....

 in the years following World War II effectively canceled the intended widespread issue of the M20, and initial U.S. forces deploying to Korea were armed solely with the M9/M9A1 2.36-in. launcher and old stockpiled World War II inventories of M6A3 rocket ammunition. During the initial stages of the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

, complaints resurfaced over the ineffectiveness of the 2.36-in M9 and M9A1 against Soviet-supplied enemy armor. In one notable incident, infantry blocking forces of the U.S. Army's Task Force Smith were overrun by 33 North Korean T-34/85 tanks despite repeatedly firing 2.36 inch rockets into the rear engine compartments of the vehicles. Additionally, Ordnance authorities received numerous combat reports regarding the failure of the M6A3 warhead to properly detonate upon impact, eventually traced to inventories of rocket ammunition that had deteriorated from numerous years of storage in humid or salt air environments. Supplies of 3.5 in M20 launchers with M28A2 HEAT rocket ammunition were hurriedly airlifted from the United States to South Korea, where they proved very effective against the T-34 and other Soviet tanks. Large numbers of 2.36-inch Bazooka that were captured during the Chinese Civil War
Chinese Civil War
The Chinese Civil War was a civil war fought between the Kuomintang , the governing party of the Republic of China, and the Communist Party of China , for the control of China which eventually led to China's division into two Chinas, Republic of China and People's Republic of...

 were also employed by the Chinese forces against the American Sherman and Patton tanks, and the Chinese later reverse engineered and produced a copy of the M20 designated the Type 51.

Vietnam War


The M20 "Super Bazooka" was used in the early stages of the war in Vietnam by the US Marines before gradually being phased out of in favor of the M67 recoilless rifle
M67 recoilless rifle
The M67 recoilless rifle was a 90-mm antitank recoilless rifle made in the United States and later in the Republic of Korea. It could also be employed in an antipersonnel role with the use of the M590 antipersonnel round...

 and later, the M72 LAW
M72 LAW
The M72 LAW is a portable one-shot 66 mm unguided anti-tank weapon, designed in the United States by Paul V. Choate, Charles B. Weeks, and Frank A. Spinale et al...

 rocket. While occasions to destroy enemy armored vehicles proved exceedingly rare, it was employed against enemy fortifications and emplacements with success. The M20 remained in service with South Vietnamese and indigenous forces until the late 1960s.

Other conflicts


Portuguese defense forces used quantities of M9A1 and M20 rocket launchers in their overseas departments in Africa against Marxist guerrilla forces during the Portuguese Colonial Wars. The French Army also used the M1A1, M9A1, and M20 launchers in various campaigns in Indochina
Indochina
The Indochinese peninsula, is a region in Southeast Asia. It lies roughly southwest of China, and east of India. The name has its origins in the French, Indochine, as a combination of the names of "China" and "India", and was adopted when French colonizers in Vietnam began expanding their territory...

 and Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

.

Rocket Launcher, M1 "Bazooka"

  • First issued June 14, 1942 by Capt. L.A. Skinner
  • Used the M6 rocket
  • Could penetrate up to 3 inches (76 mm) of armor.
  • Velocity of 265fps (80.77 m/s)

Rocket Launcher, M1A1 "Bazooka"


  • Improved electrical system
  • Simplified design
  • Used the M6A1 rocket
  • Forward hand grip deleted.
  • Contact box removed.

Rocket Launcher, M9 "Bazooka"

  • Optical reflector sight
    Reflector sight
    A reflector or reflex sight is a generally non-magnifying optical device that allows the user to look through a partially reflecting glass element and see an illuminated projection of an aiming point or some other image superimposed on the field of view...

  • Reinforced launch tube
  • Metal Furniture
  • Used the improved M6A3 rocket
  • Could penetrate up to 4 inches (102 mm) of armor
  • Supplanted M1A1 in 1944
  • Could be disassembled into two halves for easier carrying.

Rocket Launcher, M9A1 "Bazooka"

  • Battery ignition replaced by trigger magneto
    Magneto (electrical)
    A magneto is an electrical generator that uses permanent magnets to produce alternating current.Magnetos adapted to produce pulses of high voltage are used in the ignition systems of some gasoline-powered internal combustion engines to provide power to the spark plugs...

    .

Rocket Launcher, M18 "Bazooka"

  • Experimental
  • Aluminum alloy
  • Weight of 10.5 lbs
  • Ordered late summer 1945, canceled at war end.

Rocket Launcher, M20 "Super Bazooka"


  • Larger 3.5 in (90 mm) diameter warhead
  • Could penetrate up to 11 inches (280 mm) of armor
  • Extended range by about 150 m
  • Originally a larger version of the M9A1, designated M20 in late 1944.
  • Entered active service just before the start of the Korean War
    Korean War
    The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

    .

Rocket Launcher, M20B1 "Super Bazooka"

  • Lightweight version with barrels made of cast aluminum, other components simplified
  • Used as a supplement to the M20

Rocket Launcher, M20A1/A1B1 "Super Bazooka"

  • Product improved variant with improved connector latch assembly, entering production in 1952
  • Improved versions of the M20 and M20B1 respectively

Rocket Launcher, M25 "Three Shot Bazooka"

  • Experimental tripod mounted rocket launcher with overhead magazine circa 1955.

RL-83 Blindicide

  • RL-83 Blindicide
    RL-83 Blindicide
    The RL-83 Blindicide is an antitank rocket launcher produced by Mecar SA of Belgium and was an improved derivative of the M20A1 Bazooka. Its name roughly means "tank killer", derived from the French "véhicule blindé" and the suffix -cide....

     an improved "Bazooka" design of Belgian origin. Used by Belgian forces during the Congo Crisis and by the Swiss Army, Mexican Army and Israeli Army and various other armed forces.

3.5 in HYDROAR M20A1B1 Rocket Launcher

  • Brazil manufactured by Hydroar SA- Improved 3.5 M20A1B1 with US designed hand grip magneto trigger replaced with one with solid state firing circuit powered by two AA batteries.

M1

  • Length: 54 in (137 cm)
  • Caliber: 2.36 in (60 mm)
  • Weight: 13 lb (5.9 kg)
  • Warhead: M6 shaped charge (3.5 lb, 1.59 kg)
  • Range
    • Maximum: 400 yards (370 m)
    • Effective: (claimed) 150 yards (140 m)
  • Crew: 2, operator and loader

M1A1

  • Length: 54 in (137 cm)
  • Caliber: 2.36 in (60 mm)
  • Weight: 12.75 lb (5.8 kg)
  • Warhead: M6A1 shaped charge (3.5 lb, 1.59 kg)
  • Range
    • Maximum: 400 yards (370 m)
    • Effective: (claimed) 150 yards (140 m)
  • Crew: 2, operator and loader

M9/M9A1

  • Length: 61 in (155 cm)
  • Caliber: 2.36 in (60 mm)
  • Weight: 14.3 lb (6.5 kg)
  • Warhead: M6A3/C shaped charge (3.5 lb, 1.59 kg)
  • Range
    • Maximum: 400–500 yards (370–460 m)
    • Effective: (claimed) 120 yards (110 m)
  • Crew: 2, operator and loader (M9) or 1, operator+loader (M9A1)

M20A1/A1B1

  • Length (when assembled for firing): 60 in (1,524 mm)
  • Caliber: 3.5 in (90 mm)
  • Weight (unloaded): M20A1: 14.3 lb (6.5 kg); M20A1B1: 13 lb (5.9 kg)
  • Warhead: M28A2 HEAT (9 lb) or T127E3/M30 WP (8.96 lb)
  • Range
    • Maximum: 1000 yd (913 m)
    • Effective (stationary target/moving target): 300 yd (270 m) / 200 yd (180 m)
  • Crew: 2, operator and loader

Users

: Super Bazooka, replaced by AT4: replaced by Carl Gustav recoilless rifle
Carl Gustav recoilless rifle
The Carl Gustav is the common name for the 84 mm man-portable reusable multi-role recoilless rifle produced by Saab Bofors Dynamics in Sweden...

 HEAT and HE versions.: JGSDF used Super Bazooka, replaced by the Carl Gustav recoilless rifle: large numbers of 2.36-inch bazookas were captured by the Chinese Communists during the Chinese Civil War
Chinese Civil War
The Chinese Civil War was a civil war fought between the Kuomintang , the governing party of the Republic of China, and the Communist Party of China , for the control of China which eventually led to China's division into two Chinas, Republic of China and People's Republic of...

, and China also copied the 3.5-inch as the Type 51: as Raketgevär 46, replaced by the Carl Gustav recoilless rifle
Carl Gustav recoilless rifle
The Carl Gustav is the common name for the 84 mm man-portable reusable multi-role recoilless rifle produced by Saab Bofors Dynamics in Sweden...

: as คจตถ. 3.5 นิ้ว in Royal Thai Army, replaced by RPG-7
RPG-7
The RPG-7 is a widely-produced, portable, unguided, shoulder-launched, anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Originally the RPG-7 and its predecessor, the RPG-2, were designed by the Soviet Union, and now manufactured by the Bazalt company...


See also


  • List of U.S. Army weapons by supply catalog designation (Group B)
  • M72 LAW
    M72 LAW
    The M72 LAW is a portable one-shot 66 mm unguided anti-tank weapon, designed in the United States by Paul V. Choate, Charles B. Weeks, and Frank A. Spinale et al...

  • Rocket-propelled grenade
  • PIAT
    PIAT
    The Projector, Infantry, Anti Tank was a British hand-held anti-tank weapon developed during the Second World War. The PIAT was designed in 1942 in response to the British Army's need for a more effective infantry anti-tank weapon, and entered service in 1943.The PIAT was based on the spigot...

  • Panzerfaust
    Panzerfaust
    The Panzerfaust was an inexpensive, recoilless German anti-tank weapon of World War II. It consisted of a small, disposable preloaded launch tube firing a high explosive anti-tank warhead, operated by a single soldier...

  • Panzerschreck
    Panzerschreck
    Panzerschreck was the popular name for the Raketenpanzerbüchse , an 88 mm calibre reusable anti-tank rocket launcher developed by Nazi Germany in World War II. Another popular nickname was Ofenrohr ....


External links